Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The presence of the absence

In "Silver Blaze" a key clue was the dog that did not bark. In G. K. Chesterton's "The Blast of the Book", the mystery hinges on a man who was invisible. He was not physically invisible, rather, his social status was such that the other characters took no notice of him: They ignored his presence and were blind to his absence.

Something like that is at work in the Duke lacrosse story. In the early days the story gained momentum because of the demonstrations, the outraged professors demanding action, the indignant student activists who were using the crime to make a larger point. That drew the cameras, filled airtime, generated column inches.

A month, later, however, the press has forgotten these effete lynch mobs. The story is that there is a story. It no longer matters how it became a story or if the core of the story is true.

You can see that in this Fox News article. Susan Estrich is angry at many people it seems and is not afraid to list them. Yet, somehow, she fails to mention those scruffy little crowds banging pots and pans outside of the house. Or the wanted posters. Or the demand that all 46 players speak up when some of the players were nowhere near the party.

Her forgetfulness is useful to her argument. It is so much harder to blame the defense for trying the case in the media when you forget how we arrived at this media frenzy in the first place.

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